Tim Keller on Atheism and Evil

Found this at a blog I read. The blogger is giving a brief review of Tim Keller’s book The Reason for God:

Keller responds to the ubiquitous atheist chorus: “If a good and powerful God exists, he would not allow pointless evil, but because there is much unjustifiable, pointless evil in the world, the traditional good and powerful God could not exist.”

Keller: “This reasoning is, of course, fallacious.  Just because you can’t see or imagine a good reason why God might allow something to happen doesn’t mean there can’t be one.  Again we see lurking within supposedly hard-nosed skepticism an enormous faith in one’s own cognitive faculties.  If our minds can’t plumb the depths of the universe for good answers to suffering, well, then, there can’t be any!  This is blind faith of a high order.”  “Many assume that if there were good reasons for the existence of evil, they would be accessible to our minds…but why should that be the case?”  Keller says, essentially, just because you can’t see something doesn’t mean it is not there!

HT: Reformed Reader

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  1. I’m going to slap you. I’m not going to tell you why. You can just assume I have a good reason. Even if I tried to explain it to you, your weak brain wouldn’t comprehend my good reasons. Fair enough?

    No?

    Because I love irony: “This reasoning is, of course, fallacious.”

  2. Kamikaze,

    Thanks for stopping by. Two things. On the contrary, there is nothing ironic about your statement at all. In fact, it is perfectly logical and historical and easily comprehended.

    First, you used the words ‘I’m’. This indicates to me that there is someone represented by the ‘I’ in your sentence. No one can be slapped apart from an ‘I’ who did the slapping. The presence of ‘I’m’ at the beginning of your sentence throws your entire program into disarray.

    Second, you used the words ‘…going to slap you.’ This indicates that the ‘I’m’ is personal. The ‘I’ knows me, can move, evidently can breathe, and has some sort of mass in order to form a fist to do the slapping. Someone who is not an ‘I’ cannot do such things. ‘I’m’ also decided to explain why to me which seems to indicate that the ‘I’m’ can talk, communicate…among all this other.

    Third, (I know I said two) your response (assuming you are the ‘I’ for the purposes of my argument) is exactly what I was told would happen. I have no problem comprehending it even if I don’t particularly like it. Your viciousness likely comes as a result of your anger that someone believes in something or someone that you do not believe in or because you think are morally superior and thus in a position to do so (the slapping). That is, you cannot slap the one whom you believe hurt you without explanation so you lash out at those who continue to believe in spite of all evidence to the contrary that the one they believe in is real. That is, you try to hurt God by hurting his people.

    jerry

  3. “[T]here is nothing ironic about your statement at all.”

    You say this as an analogous defense.

    Your second and third paragraphs point out that my arguments involve me as a relative version of god. The problem of evil points out one of two things: Either god doesn’t exist or god does nothing (or even gives a little shove to) evil. Considering the lack of scientific evidence, I go with the former. Since you clearly believe in god, I’m just showing how you’re forced to accept the second position. To do that, I’d have to pretend an entity exists that more than likely doesn’t, but it’s all in argument.

    “Third, (I know I said two) your response (assuming you are the ‘I’ for the purposes of my argument) is exactly what I was told would happen.”

    You were told someone would present an analogy that proves Keller’s argument is pointless?

    “I have no problem comprehending it even if I don’t particularly like it. Your viciousness likely comes as a result of your anger that someone believes in something or someone that you do not believe in or because you think are morally superior and thus in a position to do so (the slapping).”

    I’m not vicious, nor being vicious. For my analogy I clearly had to choose an action we would consider evil. I made sure to make it bad, but not too bad. Notice how I didn’t go with something extreme like “stab” or even “punch.” I was hoping the half-joking attitude would come through in the text.

    It’s also worth noting that you call me vicious for doing something you defended at first:

    “[T]here is nothing ironic about your statement at all. In fact, it is perfectly logical and historical and easily comprehended.”

    You seemed to agree with me, at first, that I may have legitimate reasons for the slapping. But then you turn and say I’m vicious. If I’m vicious, then you have seen that god must also be vicious.

    And, for the record, I don’t wish harm on anyone, Christian, atheist or otherwise. I think you’re wrong, that’s all.

    • Kami,

      Look, you are the one who said you would do the slapping, not me. You are the one who posited an ‘I’ into this conversation. You are the one conceding that if there was no ‘I’ there would be no slapping.

      Your sarcastic remark about ‘an analogy that proves Keller’s argument is pointless’ is a) missing the point and b) proving nothing. I was talking about the fact that Jesus warned those who follow him that people would react violently towards them.

      How is that you can consider slapping to be ‘evil’? Tell me, friend, by what standard in a godless universe is slapping evil? It matters nil if you it is ‘stabbing,’ or ‘punching’ or an inadvertent brush as you walk by. You have no comparable standard by which to measure your slap as evil if there is no objective, ultimate standard behind it. In other words, you cannot call your slap evil because evil does not exist in a world where there is no god. In a godless world all things are relative. (I might also add that there is no such thing as good either.)

      PS–I did not defend your slap when I said that it is ‘logical, historical, and easily comprehended.’ I was simply responding to your comment that the slap cannot be comprehended. That’s not true. Your slap is easily comprehended and I can make a fairly good guess at it simply by observing the circumstances that surrounded the time you slapped me.

      Finally, the problem with your entire argument is that you assume God did nothing about evil in the first place. History says different. History demonstrates quite conclusively that God was crucified and thus crushed evil under its own weight. you are simply in denial and that has nothing to do with science and everything to do with history.

      jerry

  4. “Look, you are the one who said you would do the slapping, not me. You are the one who posited an ‘I’ into this conversation. You are the one conceding that if there was no ‘I’ there would be no slapping.”

    In the sake of argument.

    “I was talking about the fact that Jesus warned those who follow him that people would react violently towards them.”

    Well, I’m hardly doing that. I’ve plenty of Christian friends. We occasionally give eachother a good verbal ribbing, but none of us qualify as violent. I’m sorry to disappoint you if you are the flavor of Christian who feeds on persecution.

    “You have no comparable standard by which to measure your slap as evil if there is no objective, ultimate standard behind it. In other words, you cannot call your slap evil because evil does not exist in a world where there is no god.”

    Many people believe in god and don’t agree on any ultimate standard anyway. Some Christians believe gay marriage is fine, abortion is fine, and so on. And then there are more conservative Christians who are the exact opposite. In each of the over two thousand versions of Christianity, what you never find is a person who disagrees with their god. Nobody ever says it. God always believes the same things a person believes, oddly enough. So, no, god doesn’t grant any objective moral standpoint — all people do is assign their own morals to their god. If there were one objective morality within Christianity there would be one sect. There wouldn’t be Catholics and Protestants, just one unified group who agreed on everything.

    As for things being relative… it isn’t necessarily true. If there is no justifiable reason for harming someone, I think we could agree that an action — like slapping someone — is evil. We would disagree if our value systems were different, and the slap somehow fit into an “ends justify the means” context. For example, you may want to be slapped if there was a big spider on your head, while I may not. I might consider the slap an evil action in that case. There are definitely shades of gray, but we can discuss morality meaningfully even though there isn’t (and there isn’t, even if there were a god) an objective, external morality handed to us. It would be convenient if there were, but there not being one isn’t -that- big of a deal either.

    The thing you have ignored by saying evil can’t exist without god is that people can define evil in other ways. Many religious people define evil as things their god looks down upon. The nonreligious tend to define evil as unnecessary or unreasonable harm. There’s no problem with using the term with an alternate definition. It actually works far better to define evil as something harmful. That way the excuse “god doesn’t like it” and other meaningless phrases representing prejudices go out the window. If, for example, a person doesn’t want homosexuals to get married, they should have a legitimate reason based on the supposedly negative outcome. Saying your god is against something is a cop-out. Maybe ask him/her/it if he/she/it has any good reasons for opposing the things he/she/it opposes.

    “I was simply responding to your comment that the slap cannot be comprehended. That’s not true. Your slap is easily comprehended and I can make a fairly good guess at it simply by observing the circumstances that surrounded the time you slapped me.”

    Your guess was wrong. But I’ll bet, like Keller, you would assume a god would have good reasons for allowing evil in the world. Wouldn’t it be more honest to say a god could have good reasons, but since you can’t name them you aren’t sure? When did the mere possibility of something being true, make it true?

    “Finally, the problem with your entire argument is that you assume God did nothing about evil in the first place. History says different. History demonstrates quite conclusively that God was crucified and thus crushed evil under its own weight.”

    History says quite the opposite. Hitler and the holocaust? Crusades? Jihads? World Wars? If you only want to count the evil done by religion, it’s still very numerous.

    [Link removed. I remove all links in comment threads. It’s nothing personal.]

    “you are simply in denial and that has nothing to do with science and everything to do with history.”

    Armchair psychology is not your forte. It isn’t mine either. It’s best not to pretend you know a person better than themselves.

    • K,

      “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

      Evil, violence, hatred, suffering are not so hard to comprehend or endure when you understand and believe that God is in control. You and I cannot imagine the level of suffering that would exist if not restrained. The presence of such things is not counter-intuitive to the existence of God. I argue quite the opposite because you can only label something evil if there is an ultimate standard of good by which to measure it against. And it is only God who is able to rid the world of these things; only God who ultimately will. Suffering has a purpose, in other words, for those who love God, but it is not the same purpose for those who do not love him. You see futility and impotence; I see hope and Sovereignty.

      “Eliminate God, and you eliminate any corresponding absolute right or wrong. To call a thing evil, then, is mere opinion–one impression set against a million counter-impressions.” (Marc LiVecche, Salvo, Winter 08)

      jerry




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