Essays / A Plea for Church Synergy / Jasmin Pierzina

The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ. Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit.

1 Corinthians 12:12-13 (NLT)

It is one of the most widely understood truths or perhaps just a worst kept secret that man works better when he works alongside his fellow humans. Synergy is something we innately understand and value. This is evidenced by the fact that “works well with others” is a bullet point on everyone’s resume, regardless of its truthfulness. Our parents taught us to share not only our toys with our siblings and friends but hopefully also the workload of cleaning up those toys. So, it should come as no surprise that this idea is modeled, too, in the church, not just in a small, individually body, but in the body of believers, the capital “C” church. 1 Corinthians 12 talks about the body of believers, united with the same purpose and the same spirit. Being together is inevitable when we are, in fact, on the same team, but this inevitability does not equal teamwork. There are still aspects where the church struggles to behave with the synergy scripture requires. This is because we often lock ourselves in small boxes by putting our focus on our individual parts of the body, instead of the body as a whole. What we must recognize is that 1 Corinthians 12:12-13 does not just apply to the individuals within a single local church body but to the whole of Christendom. When a local church forgets the larger church, that individual church fails to submit to the example of scripture.  The local church should allow for its needs to be transparently known and met by another church.

How is the church failing this standard? To look at it in a microcosm, we can pull data from Aletheia Bible Fellowship’s (ABF’s) Upreach Program, which did not set out to farm for data concerning the lack of church partnership, but instead to create partnerships and a grounding system for unchurched Christians. If we look at their compiled data, we find that out of approximately 15 churches approached to partner: of the 10 who agreed to partner with ABF, only 3 critical partnerships emerged. Most other local churches were accepting of receiving unchurched people that ABF would send them, but there was little interest in a relationship beyond that point, if interested in this partnership at all. This does not even reflect the numerous occasions where a church is contacted for interest in a partnership, but never responded to the email. When churches hold a business mindset, other churches become competitors and attempts at partnership are often received as threats, rather than a normal response to the doctrine of Christian unity. Granted, I only have a limited and small dataset, but it does provide insight into how sneaky this issue can be and what I believe to be a true issue within the church.. That means, all the more, that we need to work synergistically to solve it.

What is the scriptural example of synergy? The example of the church being a body outlined in 1 Corinthians 12 beautifully and clearly illustrates what it means to work together. Similarly to how a human body cleans itself with water, bandages its own wounds, and nourishes itself to provide energy; the entire body of believers must work together to make the local bodies functional and healthy. The universal church must clean itself, washing in Christ’s redeeming blood to cleanse it from sin, hatred, greed, and ill-will. It must mend its wounds, wrapping up the damage done by people who turn and fall away or even amputating a limb that has died (or in our case, become apostate). The church must feed itself with scripture, right doctrine, and worship and use that energy to output good works. This is something a whole body or the universal church should do naturally and completely. If the enemy cuts or strikes the body, even if it is not our part, we cannot and must not ignore it. Likewise, every local church is a part of the larger body of Christ. If a part is hurting itself, or infected, or bleeding out, we (being the other parts) have an even deeper responsibility to take these pains seriously.. Like it’s said, again in 1 Corinthians 12:20-21 (NASB), “But now there are many members, but one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’; or again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’” The truth of the matter is that local churches need other local churches to survive, thrive, and fulfill the outline of scripture.  

With this all in mind, it is easy, within a local fellowship, to slip into the mindset of ‘my church is already doing this’, however I would ask that you think bigger. Have you considered that it is not enough just to take care of the needs of our small part of the larger body on its own? Scripture requires more of us, scripture requires that we share our needs.

What constitutes a need? Need is, perhaps, the simplest component of this problem. Everywhere we look there is a need, inside and outside of the church. The issue arises when the church starts to slip into its surrounding culture, conforming with the idea that need implies weakness. The church clearly has not escaped this idea, even though it has relegated it to what it now calls “personal issues”. This, however, is unbiblical. How can we care for a part that is hurting without knowing it’s hurting in the first place? We have a God-given responsibility to share not only our triumphs and joys but also our burdens. To address serving these burdens, we must first examine the needs.  A church’s needs will vary based on its purpose in the capital C church. Needs can include help with ministries, prayer, building maintenance, or help in any area that stunts the growth and healthy function of a church. These needs do not have to only be small things, like fixing a leaky faucet, but also touchier subjects, like financially supporting a different church so it can keep it’s doors open. Some churches are church plants or have an aging congregation and lack the staff they need for vital ministries. Other churches could have the staff to volunteer. Some churches will simply need prayer or advice for their direction. The fact is this, our biggest hindrance to our unity is our inability to be vulnerable and sharing what we lack.

What does being transparent mean? Again and unsurprisingly, it’s outlined in scripture. James 5:16 (NASB) puts it straightforward, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.” Perhaps this idea is something you’ve employed in your own church. If so, great! However, it shouldn’t and can’t stop there. The book of James is not a letter addressed to one church or individual like the Pauline epistles often were, but to “the twelve tribes who are dispersed abroad”. In this, we can conclude that James was not looking only for one small piece of the church to be open with its transgressions and, similarly, not looking for one part to only pray for itself. In Matthew 22:36-39, Jesus simplifies the Mosaic Law into two main commandments,  which, to paraphrase, is to love the Lord our God with our whole heart and to love our neighbors with a tenderheart. If we have read this passage through before, we should know that our “neighbor” is not just the person living in the house down the street. The term neighbor includes all people, and in that wide bracket, ALSO our fellow church goers and fellow churches. Please consider, how well are we showing our love for our neighbor if we don’t pray for them? Are we loving our neighbor if we hide our broken pieces from them, and in that, lying that we are capable of meeting the mark of perfection? The answer is that we are absolutely not loving our neighbor properly in those cases. For this, Galatians 6:2 (NASB) says it best “Bear one anothers burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.” Clearly, we are not expected to come together as separate and perfect pictures, but rather as broken pieces that reflect the image of Christ when they are together, and in that togetherness we become a synergistic whole.

Our service must be something that is gladly given. As outlined in Romans 12, each individual has gifting from the Holy Spirit. As each church is made up of different people, and each church has a specific function in christendom, it also stands to reason that each church has its own unique purpose as well. Every church does something really well. For some, they are fortunate to be gifted with serving others and specifically their brothers and sisters in Christ.  However, though not all of us have the gift of service, we are called to serve how we can anyway. Paul is outlining the gifts of the spirit when he says in Romans 12:6-8 (NASB), “Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith;  if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching; or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.” However we serve, however we can, we are called to do it cheerfully, diligently, and with a self-sacrificial heart. We are called to serve, not through our own strength, but through God’s grace and providence. We are called to be the first to arrive and the last to leave in how we serve. When we serve, we should serve eagerly. Have you looked for places that need your gifts? Have local churches asked for your help? Have you responded to their call with urgency and joy?

Our service must be something that is holistic. The buck doesn’t stop with serving gladly. Our responsibility to serve is often placed on the wrong shoulders. Our responsibility to serve does not only sit on the shoulders of leaders, just as the mandate to teach is not only the task of teachers. Like how walking uses the whole body, we are liable to fall flat on our face if our feet don’t move in tune with our shoulders. How can a church successfully exemplify Paul’s example of a human body when only those in any kind of leadership seek to serve and partner with other local churches? Likewise, if we don’t operate with synergy in our individual parts of the body of Christ, we cannot properly operate with our prescribed synergy outside of our individual churches. That means leaders should encourage and have the expectation that the laypeople of the church work toward the common goal of synergy, both locally and at large. That means congregants should work with their local leaders towards a larger synergy, rather than hindering them out of comfort or for a longing to cling to how things have always been. “How things have been” doesn’t work, isolation doesn’t work, they are not sustainable and are misguided. Only God and his scripture are consistent, local churches and individual parishioners should rely on those alone to work to better fill the shadow they cast. We should remember that our present state is not complete.  We must allow for God to sanctify us as he intended.

Our service must be something that is brotherly. We should work together, not only with our part of the body in our local church but with the body as a whole, as brothers and family. We can’t gain that familial rapport if we don’t work together correctly and only rely on those in charge to make things synergistic. We can support each other by making reasonable efforts to attend public events, praying together across local bodies, and making friends outside our own local church! Not only will we be better suited to work together when we know who we’re working with, but we will also be better equipped to anticipate needs and have needs anticipated on our behalf. We will be better prepared to serve the whole if we know can take care of ourselves, within God’s providence, through the care of others. Now we must be honest with ourselves! We should and are called to share not only the spirit and the same purpose but the same burden; the burden caused by the sinful world we seek to treat. We should ask ourselves,have we  severed ourselves from the body? Does our local church treat the other local bodies of the capital C church as fellow parts of the body? Ask if you are seeking to fulfill the needs of the whole body? And also ask yourself, are you being transparent in your needs?

How do we accomplish this? Becoming a synergistic whole sounds easy on paper, however the truth is humans are dynamic and live in a fallen state. For most of us, this change requires more than the flip of the proverbial switch. For us to grow in our transparent synergy in any real way, we must build a structure to sustain growth of that kind. Our structure must consist of being legacy minded in what we do and the ministries we build. ABF has addressed this situation and a solution in their Upreach Program, starting with it’s featured principle called Modular Legacy Minded Components or MLMC. The principle of MLMC is essentially, each ministry and resource has to be developed in a way that’s transferable to future generations and in some cases other local churches. MLMC makes the process of working in synergy even easier as any resource of ABF’s is readily sharible. To establish MLMC in your own church body means to carefully blueprint and outline the function and form of ministerial resources in detail, so another church can read a ministries’ blueprint to build one similar. ABF also presents another step to the solution by creating a position on staff, focused on facilitating MLMC in ministries, creating relationships with other churches, and organizing cross-church events. For ABF this presents itself in their deacon of external ministries, Heidi Parker, who is tasked with looking for opportunities to partner with local church bodies and facilitating the communication between them. Finally, ABF created a group, the aforementioned Upreach Program, to create and facilitate ways to partner, which has been decently successful in creating those partnerships.

So, our answer is relatively simple. To create the transparent synergy scripture asks us to have, churches should:

  1. Have and maintain a position that’s focused on facilitating synergy in the body.
  2. Teach and enforce the idea that it is not just the task of the church workers, but also the congregation, from youngest to oldest, weakest to strongest, to take this to heart and exemplify what is required of us in scripture.

To be successful we have to work together, admit our vulnerabilities and our weaknesses, and use our gifts to serve the whole. We have to hold each other to the highest standard and be tenderhearted in our affection for each other. We must not be strangers, but the brothers and sisters we are in Christ’s work. We must all work together, from the youngest to the oldest, the weakest to the strongest. If we have our good God as the foundation and center for our synergistic collaboration, we can be the body he has intended for us to be!

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

-John 13:34-35 (NASB)

Essays / The Problem of Naturalism / Katelyn Ebert

Everyone has experienced pain.  Injury, betrayal, natural disaster, or the death of a close relative or friend all cause us to sharply recall the problems of this world.  During these or other tragedies, we tend to wonder, “why is there evil?” Many privately or publicly conclude that evil in the world is inconsistent with the concept of God as omnipotent (all-powerful), omniscient (all-knowing), and omnibenevolent (all-good).  Formal arguments based on the problem of evil have been presented by influential philosophers such as Michael Tooley, David Hume, and John Mackie. Though these propositions cannot disprove the existence of a God, they call into question the classical concept of God.  To present a serious criticism, skeptics should use an internal critique to show that the theist’s theory fails on its own terms.  Gottfried Leibniz, a Christian philosopher, offers a defense of theism by proposing that evils are a means to higher goods.  His argument is even stronger if omnibenevolence is defined to include justice.

To define terms, empiricism is the view that the senses are the only means of acquiring unquestionable facts, not trusting knowledge by a priori reasoning.  A debatable result is Naturalism, which holds that everything is the result of natural processes and is made of material elements.  For example, the mind would be considered nothing more than the sum of electrochemical processes in the brain. An objective standard of morality as defined in the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy posits that as an object, it “would be there, as it is, even if no subject perceived it” (Friend).  This seems descriptive of an eternal metaphysical concept.

With these definitions, it seems that the concept of evil cannot be objective if we assume naturalism.  Removing spirituality, humans and animals are the results of billions of years of chance and energy acting on matter.  We are here because of natural selection, so our cognitive and sensory faculties should be prime for survival; there is no guarantee that we are able to accurately perceive or understand objective morality.  By definition, objective morality seems highly discordant with empirically derived concepts of right and wrong. Though we pursue what we determine is good and worthy, the standards we develop for a good life come to naught under scrutiny.  Consider that once we die, the amount of pleasure or suffering we had in this life is irrelevant; what we do for others, for our family, or the betterment of society will be forgotten if humanity goes extinct; the universe itself will be left unmarked when it eventually dies a ‘heat death’ as energy reaches complete equilibrium throughout and change is no longer possible.  Nothing we deem good is eternal. Consequently, individual experience cannot present objective morality, which must be considered true at all times and in all places.

To clarify, pointing out the lack of objective morality is not the same as saying that people cannot recognize evil.  However, if evil is based only on our subjective experience, our value critique of God is proportionally subjective. Moral theories like Social Contract Theory (SCT) or Utilitarianism attempt to define evil beyond individual preference.  Within naturalism, it seems implausible that either theory could be eternal, which would imply the existence of a metaphysical concept. The burden of proof would remain on the proponent to show how natural laws could produce such. If the moral standard of Social Contract Theory is a brute fact but did not exist before Socrates, Hobbes, or John Locke developed the concept, then it requires a subject to perceive it, and would therefore not be objective.  Could anything less than fully objective concepts of good and evil be fairly applied to a transcendent God? Assumably not. Similarly, utilitarianism is a theory arising from the electrochemical brain processes of organisms on Earth (assuming we don’t make contact with Vulcans), so the jurisdiction of these moral theories are limited to humanity’s dominion.

Since there must be objectively evil events in the world for the problem of evil to be a legitimate problem, perhaps there is an underlying objective moral standard explaining Social Contract Theory and Utilitarianism.  If evil in SCT is defined as violating the moral obligations one accepted by choosing to live in a society where people determined such moral principles likely to form and/or maintain societal stability, one could ask why societal stability is good.  The answer could actually be utilitarian: such generally facilitates the survival and happiness of more human beings. So why are existence and pleasure good? If it is based on the cooperate testimony to this preference, why should it be authoritative?  All this revelation reflects is that it is competitively advantageous for survival to enjoy life. Or, if existence and pleasure are good in the same way that suffering and death are bad, perhaps these are the brute facts of morality. This moral law is not composed of atoms nor directly comparable to the laws of thermodynamics; it must be metaphysical.  This could fit within naturalism only by arising from natural laws. However, physical laws of natural selection and the processes of mutation lead to evolution, which entails suffering and death. How could natural laws produce a higher law that condemns itself? The existence of an unexplainable metaphysical concept itself refutes naturalism, but if we are the result of only natural processes, we would also have to evolve beyond the laws that produced us to claim comprehension of metaphysical morality.  Ultimately, this illustrates that evil from the naturalistic perspective cannot be objective.

For the problem of evil to be a legitimate philosophical problem, the critiquer must be able to point to objective evil.  An external critique is one based in the critiquer’s worldview, generally considering whether the idea is consistent with reality. Consider for a moment if the problem of evil was used externally and defeated the theist position.  Relying upon premises consistent with naturalism and an objective presence of evil, a non-theist argues against a transcendent theistic God. Hypothetically, the theistic perspective is defeated. Now the objective presence of evil, which is inconsistent naturalism, is assumed with the naturalistic critique.  Either the original objectivity of evil or the original premises based in naturalism (that form the external critique) were wrong. Of course, there would be nothing wrong with an internal critique.  This would be showing how the presence of objective evil is inconsistent with the theistic concept of an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-good God.  However, to truly test consistency without introducing exterior restrictions upon the character of God, the nontheist should allow the theist to define their own terms.  

Within this context of internal versus external critiques, classical arguments for and against the problem of evil can be analyzed.  Dr. Michael Tooley’s Inductive Argument from Evil falls apart when it uses both naturalistic and non-naturalistic bases for his premises.  In his debate with Dr. William Lane Craig, he starts his opening statement with an inventory of evils in the world. Many of these are moral evils, such as the Holocaust (Ratio).  He does not justify the objectivity of these actions as morally wrong, and to operate upon such, as discussed earlier, is not naturalistic. Even more so is the point of alleged genetic evil.  This is a note about the imperfections of our biology that cause suffering. How could the suboptimal results of the unguided, morally neutral process of evolution have “wrong-making properties?”  And yet Tooley also makes external critiques that are consistent with his worldview, like the inclusion of natural evil, which assumes humans are innocent or at least morally neutral; this is not the case in the Christian worldview but is ignored here and when he discusses the genocides of the Old Testament.  So Tooley’s argument is trying to operate both from an internal and an external perspective, which does not work.

Even ignoring Tooley’s problematic approach, there are issues with the premises of his argument that make it unsound.  Primarily, one of his key premises states that “an action is morally wrong, all things considered, if it has wrong-making characteristics [both known and unknown] that are not counterbalanced by its right-making characteristics [both known and unknown]” (Ratio).  He likely points out the potential unknown evil in any given scenario in response to the common theistic claim that evil in the world is for a greater unseen good. The crux of Tooley’s argument hinges on there being events in the world where the known evil outweighs the known good, but by noting that there are two unknowns there inevitably ends up being almost nothing that can be concluded.  Even if on one side of the inequality you have 3,000,000 known evils plus X unknown evils, and on the other you have 3 known goods plus Y unknown goods, the probability of the evil outweighing the good is not necessarily high because we have no way of knowing the scale of X or Y. Y could be 3×10²⁰ and X could be 3 for all we know. This leads to an even more fundamental issue: how does one assign a numerical value to good and evil, even in one situation?  How many lives equal how much suffering weighed against how much pleasure? Rather than appealing to mysterious unknown goods, the theist like Leibniz may be pointing out that there are higher goods like benevolence. Virtues, vices, and freedoms make the good and evil of a scenario even more unquantifiable.

A very different approach to the problem of evil is by the philosopher David Hume, who develops an internal critique of the traditional concept of God.  Based on empirical a posteriori reasoning, he spends the bulk of The Argument from Evil arguing that there is, in fact, evil in the world.  However, the heart of his argument–that God’s omnipotence, omniscience, and omnibenevolence are incompatible with evil in the world–is left largely undefined and unargued.  He merely asserts that if God is “willing to prevent evil, but not able? then is he [sic] impotent. Is he able, but not willing? then is he malevolent. Is he both able and willing? whence then is evil?” (235).  This is a summary of Epicurus’s trilemma, and though it is presented as conclusive, the major premises are not argued. That being able but unwilling to remove evil makes one malevolent is not an explicit or formal logical necessity.  The many arguments offered in support of consistency must be ignored for Hume’s assertion to work because most are not responded to. At one point, Hume may be responding to the defense that good outweighs evil by attempting to show the opposite.  Yet, how can one measure good and evil in the world? Hume does not extensively define evil beyond example, although he does seem to assume a concept of omnibenevolence that theists may question.

When Hume engages with Leibniz’s theistic position, he claims that Leibniz denies the existence of evil, being “perhaps the first who ventured upon so bold and paradoxical an opinion” (233).  However, this misrepresents Leibniz’s view entirely, since Leibniz admits in his Theodicy that “it must be confessed that there is evil in this world which God has made” (238).  Leibniz’s actual defense is that “the evil is accompanied by a greater good” (238, emphasis his), and greater goods are intertwined with evil.  This is in response to the objection that God did not create the best possible world since there is evil in it.  Leibniz counters by using the analogy of a general who would rather win a battle that would have minor losses than neither win the battle nor incur losses.  An example not mentioned by Leibniz that could enlighten his point is that virtues like sympathy are intrinsically connected to suffering. So, higher goods like benevolence could not be achieved without some evil.  

In response to the Free Will Defense, the late Oxford professor John Mackie proposes that in the creation of morally free creatures, true omnipotence has been forfeited.  For a being to be truly free, it has to be ultimately uncontrolled. Mackie points out that there are two types of omnipotence: the power to control (O₁) and the power to create beings one cannot control (O₂), (Mackie, 210-212).  Since these inherently conflict with one another, God cannot have both O₁ and O₂ from an Aquinisinian perspective; (Aquinas’s view of Omnipotence will be discussed shortly).  Plantinga posits that God has O₂, which is why once God created significantly free humans, He was no longer able to interfere with their actions (309-310). Therefore, God is not responsible for moral evil, although not being able to hold to O₁ would compromise omnipotence from the classical perspective.  As a result, Mackie’s critique that the theist is redefining or rejecting one of the premises to solve the problem of evil seems valid.  

On the other hand, if God does not possess the ability to essentially thwart Himself as O₂ implies, one could avoid compromising classical omnipotence.  O₂ would be considered logically impossible if one accepts O₁, and therefore not necessitated by omnipotence following Aquinas’s argument.  Still, God could have the ability to create beings that He could allow to primarily act freely while maintaining fundamental control.  Unless God is compelled to always display O₁, God should be free to choose when to control His creation.  If God, as omnibenevolent, only actively intervened to produce virtue, humans would remain the cause of vice.  As far as natural evil, like tsunamis and earthquakes, an argument could be made that these are also the results of human free will since in the Judeo-Christian worldview they are the result of the Fall.  So the free will defense is a fair model for explaining the relationship between God’s omnipotence and humans’ freedom and responsibility.

However, the atheist may then object as to why a good God would allow evil.  Although Leibniz’s Theodicy to the problem of evil seems reasonable, it could be expanded and strengthened by the following.  Consider how if God’s justice is inseparable from His omnibenevolence, the necessity of evil as a means to good is more logical.  

  1. Premise 1- God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent.
  2. Premise 2- An essential aspect of omnibenevolence is justice.
  3. Premise 3- An omnipotent being can do all that is logically possible.
  4. Premise 4- Justice logically requires evil in the world.
  5. Premise 5- Therefore, God cannot demonstrate justice without creating a world with evil.
  6. Premise 6- It is good for God to express all of His attributes.
  7. Conclusion: Evil exists so that the fullness of God’s omnibenevolence can be expressed.

Premise 1 is presupposed in the deductive problem of evil so as to argue its inconsistency with evil existing.  The argument being presented here is that when Premise 2 is allowed as a theistic rendering of omnibenevolence, there is a rational explanation for evil.  Since justice is often considered a preeminent trait within the definition of goodness, the theist’s inclusion of this should be allowed to stand. This is especially the case considering the supporting prosyllogism from earlier was that an internal critique checks the coherence of the premises.  Premise 5 is validly deduced from Premises 1, 3, and 4, so it stands if 3 and 4 are also true. (P1: If x, then a, b, c. P3: If a, then y. P4: If y, then z. P5: Therefore, if x, then z.)

Premise 3 is the conclusion of Thomas Aquinas’s “Is God’s Power Limited?”  The well-known Christian theologian and philosopher wrote an explanation to many common objections to omnipotence, essentially claiming that God can do all things that are absolutely possible, meaning objectively logical and logically consistent with His nature (104-106).  This implies that Logic exists metaphysically distinct from God, and could problematically lead to God being subservient to the Laws of Logic as an outside force. Alternatively, Rene Descartes, in his search for an unquestionable fact in Meditations on First Philosophy, asks how he could know “that I am not deceived every time that I add two and three, or count the sides of a square?” (8).  Here, the Princeton professor of philosophy Harry Frankfurt infers that Descartes is operating upon a view of God’s omnipotence that means He can do both what is absolutely possible and absolutely impossible, including changing analytical truths (109).  This would present the opposite problem where God arbitrarily defines logic. Tomorrow 2+3 could equal 7 if that is what God decides. If the laws of logic are unstable, philosophy would be pointless, thereby destroying the means of even coming to the original conclusion.  Instead of either of these views, what if logic, truth, and other objectives were realities that flow from and reflect an aspect of God’s character and nature? That could be caused as God entered time and space, which would be why the premises of logic are taken sequentially.  So what if God were to enter time and space differently in order to display other attributes of His nature, would the laws of logic be different? Not if God is unchanging and had a divine purpose in creating the universe as it is. Logic being reflected as an aspect of God’s character is at most a passive way of God “creating logic,” and the resulting stability is what ultimately differentiates it from Descartes’ model.  A concept like this reconciles the assumed premise in any argument that logic is constant, but does not call into question God’s omnipotence by placing it ontologically above Him.

In defense of  Premise 4, it would be wise to mention that God is described commonly in the Old and New Testament as a judge.  Kant’s theory of justice separates the concept into two realms: the private and the civil (Pomerleau). Since God is the King and Judge, the characteristics of civil justice are more relevant.  Protective, commutative, and distributive justice all require some form of evil in the world. If a government is required to fairly maintain, manage, and distribute goods, there is an assumption that there could be a lack of resources.  Deficiencies in access to food, water, or medicine (or the diseases in the first place) lead to suffering in the world, a form of evil. Likewise, the need for protection requires either natural or moral evil. Furthermore, there is a distinct character trait within the broader definition of justice that can only be seen in the context of righteous punishment of wrongdoing, which of course implies moral evil.  No form of civil justice can be served without the presence of evil.

Upon similar logic, an analogy can illustrate the reasoning behind Premise 6.  Consider how a judge is deemed good when a criminal receives an appropriate sentence.  God could similarly be glorified in executing right judgment. Furthermore, even when a flawed person receives an appropriate honor, it is a good thing.  How much better would it be for God to receive due glory? Therefore, the best possible universe could be one in which God receives the most glory, assumably by demonstrating all of His attributes, which would include justice and necessitate evil.  

Though at first glance the problem of evil appears threatening to the traditional concept of God, its premises must still be argued. To remain consistent, skeptics must choose between an external critique of the traditional Judeo-Christian concept of God by naturalism and an internal critique of the concept of God by theology.  When theists specify the inclusion of justice as an aspect of omnibenevolence, there arises an explanation for why a good and powerful God would allow evil.  Lastly, the problems of this world must be considered in the context of temporality: God has a final plan of redemption for all of creation. As a diamond shines brighter on a dark background, so too will redemption for a broken world will be greater than an unfallen creation.  

Works Cited

Aquinas, Thomas. “Is God’s Power Limited?” Philosophy of Religion, edited by Michael Rea and Louis Pojman, no.7, Cengage Learning, 2015, pp. 104-106.

Descartes, René. “Meditations On First Philosophy.” The Philosophical Works of Descartes, translated by Elizabeth S. Haldane. Cambridge University Press, 1911, pp. 1–32.

Frankfurt, Harry G. “The Logic of Omnipotence.” Philosophy of Religion, edited by Michael Rea and Louis Pojman, no.7, Cengage Learning, 2015, p. 109.

Friend, Celeste. “Social Contract Theory.” Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, IEP, http://www.iep.utm.edu/soc-cont/.

Hume, David. “The Argument from Evil.” Philosophy of Religion, edited by Michael Rea and Louis Pojman, no.7, Cengage Learning, 2015, pp. 232-237.

Leibniz, Gottfried Wilhelm. “Theodicy: A Defense of Theism.” Philosophy of Religion, edited by Michael Rea and Louis Pojman, no.7, Cengage Learning, 2015, pp. 237-243.

Mackie, John L. “Evil and Omnipotence.” Mind, New Series, vol. 64, no. 254, Oxford University Press, 1955, pp. 200-212.

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