Theistic Critiques of Atheism, Part 8January 14, 2009 — Deacon Duncan
Dr. William Lane Craig is writing some “Theistic Critiques of Atheism,” and is certainly giving it his best. As I’ve said before, Dr. Craig is a highly intelligent, deep-thinking, and well educated man. If his critique of atheism isn’t quite what it should be, it’s not his fault. He’s doing the best he can with the material he’s got to work with.
At the moment, he’s trying to come up with four reasons why evil is more likely to exist if God is a Christian God than if He/She/It/They were some other sort of deity. Hmm, well, he doesn’t put it in quite those terms, of course, but that’s the general idea: he wants to claim that Christianity contains doctrines that make the existence of evil seem less improbable. Today’s excuse hypothesis is a return to the failed rationalizations of the past.
[M]ankind has been accorded significant moral freedom to rebel against God and His purpose. Rather than submit to and worship God, people have freely rebelled against God and go their own way and so find themselves alienated from God, morally guilty before Him, and groping in spiritual darkness, pursuing false gods of their own making. The horrendous moral evils in the world are testimony to man’s depravity in this state of spiritual alienation from God. The Christian is thus not surprised at the moral evil in the world; on the contrary he expects it.
He got one thing right: people do pursue false Gods of their own making.
This argument is a failed rationalization that dates all the way back to ancient days when people were making up myths about why the sun moves and why people are smarter than animals (mostly). It’s backwards thinking: we don’t deduce the existence of evil because we observe that humans have a sin nature, we accuse humans of having a sin nature because we observe the existence of evil. And it’s a failure, because there are a lot of nasty things (like spina bifida) that are not the deliberate work of any human intention. It does not explain evil, it merely blames evil on mankind.
But it’s more than just a superstitious attribution, it’s a slander too. It’s the old con game of “Blaming the Pigeon”—when the customer comes back and complains that the magic snake oil isn’t growing any hair on his head, you just tell him he’s not following the directions correctly. It’s all his fault, you see. He’s the guilty one. He’s got no excuse to complain, and therefore he should just go away. “Blame the Pigeon” is a trick designed to confuse the thinking of the gullible by embarrassing them with shame and guilt.
But in fact, we’re not guilty of any such thing. We have not rebelled against God, since He does not show up in real life to rebel against. We may rebel against people who claim to speak on God’s behalf, but rebellion against God Himself is not even a possibility, due to His manifest absence from the real world. Most of us wouldn’t be interested in rebelling against a genuine God even if He did show up (unless He were evil, of course). That’s just a slander to make people look bad, and to contrive some means of excusing God by passing the buck to some poor scapegoat.
Rather than excusing God, however, the “sin nature” excuse only compounds the problem of evil, because it begs the question of why people would be so sinful. Given the premise that God is both all-powerful and all-good, it does not follow that He is more likely to create sinners and devils than to wisely and lovingly lead His creatures in the paths of righteousness all of their days. Nor does evil necessarily proceed from the premise that God wants His creatures to have “free will.” God allegedly has free will, and this supposedly does not require evil actions on His part, nor (according to the Gospel) did it make sin a necessary part of Jesus’ mortal life.
As parents, we do (or should) raise our kids to exercise responsible choices, by giving them decisions that they are mature enough to handle. We don’t throw them into situations where their inexperience and immaturity are virtually certain to doom both themselves and the entire human race to mortal (and immortal) peril! God’s failure as a Heavenly Father does not excuse the existence of evil, it only increases the inconsistency between His alleged skills and motives, and the actual result of His “parenting.”
Yes, there is a great deal of evil that is deliberately inflicted by people on people, like the current persecution of gays by Christians. Blaming such evils on a supposed rebellion against God, however, doesn’t really address the issue. If men really are “alienated from God… and groping in spiritual darkness,” it only highlights God’s failure to show up in real life so that we could see Him and be reconciled to Him and have a little divine light to guide our way. It does not make evil seem more probable, it just makes it more obvious and more inconsistent with God’s alleged motives and abilities.