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The Problem of Evil, Alvin Plantinga & Victor Reppert

by Edward T. Babinski

I saw through Plantingaʼs initial assumptions regarding his “solution” to the problem of evil twenty years ago while reading Plantingaʼs book that a Calvinist friend loaned me. I phoned Plantinga years later. He didnʼt answer my question.

Problem of Evil

Hereʼs my question…

A free-willed
All powerful
All knowing
All good
All perfect
All blissful God

creates something SOLELY out of His own will, power, knowledge, goodness, perfection, and bliss…so what room is there for anything less?

…but out of infinite perfection comes a cosmos where everything dies, where bliss is fleeting, where minds and hearts grow confused, damaged, sometimes even shattered via the process of struggling to earn a living and/or raise a family, or whittled down via repressive labor, or bored to death. Where human development is difficult and perilous, where communication is difficult, even perilous, for both people and nations, where ignorance (inherent in each culture, family and individual) and stubbornness about oneʼs ignorance is rife (the latter perhaps due to increasing inflexibility of the brain/mind once it has assumed a “system”—or been “assumed by” a system—because we not only “have beliefs,” but there is also evidence that “beliefs have us” as well). A cosmos where we cannot “see” whatʼs “behind it,” where “God” and “heaven” and the “afterlife” (or even the “before birth”) remains “hidden” to the vast majority of the earthʼs inhabitants throughout time. A cosmos where consciousness does not appear to pop out fully grown all at once, but has to develop just as the brain/mind develops in the womb and during the time of infancy, childhood, adolescent impulsiveness and finally adulthood. A cosmos where we continue to struggled against a world of nature that kills with cold, wind, fire, water, earth, desert heat, lava, predators, poisons, diseases, parasites. A cosmos where we strive to lessen the painful effects of, or eliminate, natureʼs dangers and pains that haunt not only us, but every other living organism on this planet. So we fighting the cold weather that kills to the desert heat that withers, and we strive to discern early warning signs of natural disasters and epidemics. A cosmos where we also strive to eliminate barriers of communication, or blow each other up trying.

Christian apologists like Plantinga ADD to the above mix of confusion and dangers their PRESUMPTION that this cosmos is all for the greater good, and PRESUME that besides all of the above confusion imperfection and dangers—from the death of everything we see—to insufferable boredom—to daily pains—passions—miscommunications—the ignorance inherent in each culture, family and individual—the inflexibility and inertia inherent in each brain/mind as it develops from youth—or degenerates with age—besides all that—Christian apologists insist everyone MUST believe in a particular holy book written by true believers (even in a particular INTERPRETATION of that holy book), or we will not only continue to suffer as on earth, but suffer relentlessly for eternity, without mercy.

And Plantinga presents it all like itʼs the most “rational” view possible.

Christian philosopher Victor Reppert at his blog, “C. S. Lewisʼs Dangerous Idea,” seems at least doubtful that Plantingaʼs view is the most rational and suggests that it might made a bit more sense if people received “another chance” after they had died to “convert.” I assume Vic believes that the ignorant limited brain/minds, and confused or debilitated characteristics of peopleʼs brain/minds from living in this imperfect cosmos will be healed following death (otherwise they might misperceive even the afterlife based on past limited experiences or imperfect brain/mind constitutions). So Vic suggests non-Christians will all be given another chance to “believe” after they have seen God and heaven and had time to investigate and ponder matters on the “other” side of this cosmos. But Vic also realizes I suppose that this is a rationalization on Vicʼs part. (What other of Vicʼs beliefs might not also be “rationalizations to believe” as he does, i.e., rather than “reasons to believe?”) At the very least Vic does not appear to think that Plantinga has “solved” all the problems regarding this cosmos and the Christian view of salvation, since Vic recognizes the need to try and go “further” than Plantinga via Vicʼs “second chance” scenario/rationalization.

Victor Reppert remains uncomfortable, has more questions than most orthodox Christian apologists on the internet. (Welcome to my mind/brain world, Vic, filled with more questions than answers.)

I have rational difficulties conceiving of a perfectly good and perfectly powerful being squeezing out a cosmos such as this. Furthermore, the experience of this cosmos in which all things die (and struggle not to) with such daily persistence is a shared experience of everyone on the planet.

I have even GREATER difficulty imagining that humanity (and every other organism on earth) have been placed in such a universally deadly situation in order that human beings might “hear the Word of the Christian God” and either choose to believe a book written by true believers, or die an everlasting death.

P.S., Since Iʼm agnostic, let me play around with a philosophical suggestion or two, a rationalization here, a guess there, concerning God. What if “God,” being a perfect eternal being, got omni-bored and tried to surprise Himself/Herself/They/Itself by playing “hide and seek” with Him/Her/They/Itself in a panentheistic fashion? Not that I even know what “panentheism” is, except to say that some say it refers to a view of “God” as the flame of all reality with everything else being flamelets proceedings from the one great flame, a lot like pantheism, but with each flamelet having a slightly greater degree of individuality. (I wonʼt argue whether such a conception of “degrees of individuality” is “true or not” in a philosophical sense, which will obviously get us no where, since how could one prove any of my assumptions above at all)? At any rate the “Hide and Seek” playing panentheistic God who gets omnibored and then tries to generate “Surprise,” might help explain a cosmos in which life arises yet everything dies, and it might help explain humanity as well, including the “hiddenness” of God. But again, I admit Iʼm only dealing with analogies from “fire,” or from basic human emotions such as “boredom” and “surprise,” and ways in which we understand such matters, and thus I am bending the wax nose of philosophical ideas and words in ways I cannot prove and that prove nothing. Though if someone wished to follow up on this little suggestion they could do worse than read Alan Wattsʼs BOOK OF THE TABOO (Against Knowing Who You Really Are); or his Christian version of the same view in an earlier work he wrote while still an Anglican priest, BEHOLD THE SPIRIT. I am not however suggesting one must read anything of the sort.

Another guess concerns the views of universalist Christians who believe that God and time are the best teachers, hence they donʼt fear what comes next for anyone, and merely seek to blow on the spark of eternal salvation already lying inside us all, to inspire and uplift.

Iʼm not saying any philosophical suggestion of mine, or Plantingaʼs, or Reppertʼs, is easy to maintain however, not if pains or diseases of body and/or mind grow excruciating. People suffering a “ringing in the ears” have been known to leap to their deaths because the ringing kept them up till they had gone nearly mad. Sleep deprivation, even just dream deprivation (waking up a person whenever they go into rapid eye movement (or REM) mode to prevent them from dreaming) can apparently kill a person faster than depriving them of food. During times of intense pain, disease, or deprivation neither philosophy nor theology seem to help the person who is being forced to suffer greatly. Even in the Bible, though Job didnʼt curse God, he sought answers. “WHY?” Even Jesus is portrayed as shouting out “WHY” in a despairing line from a psalm before his death, “My God, My God WHY have you forsaken me?” C.S.Lewis admitted a year before he died that he “dreaded most” the thought that he may have been “deceiving himself” concerning the kind of “God” who would give his wife cancer and then himself cancer. Or as in the case of a conversation Mother Teresa had (she didnʼt believe in pain killers) with a man suffering intense pain from cancer, “Jesus is kissing you,” to which the man replied, “Then I wish heʼd stop.” Thatʼs the problem of pain in a nutshell. The “dread” of C.S. Lewis. The “Whys” of Job and Jesus. Not to mention Victor Reppertʼs “second chance.”

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