Chapter 7: A Good Problem

“After all, he’s not a tame lion.” – Mr. Tumnus

                This chapter I shall present, as in the last, in rather formalized logic. It may seem a bit redundant to have two chapters which look at the problem of evil, but I think that a second pass is worthwhile, because it is, indeed, a very powerful argument. So, my hope is to present, in this chapter, a case against the problem of evil in another direction: that the Problem of Evil implies a corresponding Problem of Good, which is as difficult for the atheist, I think, as the Problem of Evil is for theists. My hope is that in approaching the issue of evil from a second direction, one not from free will but from the concepts of good and evil themselves, the plausibility of the complete goodness and absolute power of the divine mind will be more wholly defended. After all, we do not call a table with only one leg stable; it takes a few to stand well.

Let’s look at the Problem of Evil as usually presented: 1. There is evil. 2. God exists. 3. God is all-good. 4. God is all-powerful. 5. These premises imply a contradiction because a good being tries to end evil. Therefore, God cannot be all good and all powerful, because obviously he has not eliminated evil. There are two problems if this is the argument the atheist is using. First of all, this does not disprove God. It only disproves his being both all-good and all-powerful, or attempts to do so. There are pantheons in certain religions which certainly have such gods. This, however, is not my point.

The Problem of Good is as follows: 1. There is evil in the world.2. Either evil is objective or subjective.

  1. If evil is subjective, then the atheist cannot use it to disprove God’s goodness or power. The very nature of subjective is to say that it is specific to human experience and response; if evil is only a matter of subjective experience and no objective morality gives rise to it, then it is not a ‘fact’ in the way the atheist needs it to be. In short, the Problem of Evil needs evil to be an objective fact. Because objective claims cannot be made against the postulated objective good and powerful qualities of God from a subjective experience. Put another way, we cannot say that the sun is not bright based on the fact that I am not looking at it. Even if we say it is the experience of human vision which makes the sun bright, then we can say that the sun is subjectively bright. We can not say anything from it of the objective brightness if we argue that the experience of brightness is merely subjective. Similarly, if we say that evil is subjective, then we cannot use it to postulate about the objective nature of God.
  2. If evil is objectively true, then so is the good. For I take evil to mean either “that which fails to be good in some way” or “that which opposes the good in some way.” Evil necessarily implies good, because the first is defined in terms of the second. Good is a standard, evil is a type of deviation from that standard.
  3. If this is the case, then good must also objectively exist. We cannot say now that good is a subjective truth and evil an objective one, because one is derived from the other. Either morality is subjective or not. We are following the thread of not.
  4. If it can be said that the good exists, then we can say that the unexplainable exists. By the very nature of the atheist’s invective, it is the unexplainable aspect of evil which stands against the power and goodness of God. Often it is said by these thinkers that “Such senseless evil denies the existence of God.” But by their admission, evil is outside of logic. In this way, good is also outside of logic. By outside I do not necessarily mean that we cannot understand what is good and evil through logic, but only that the existence of good and evil cannot be explained by it. How individual cases come to be are one thing; it is the objective reality of both which is unexplainable.
  5. If we hold that good is as senseless as evil, in the sense that we cannot understand it, then we cannot logically connect the senseless evil to the senseless good in such a way to disprove the existence of the good. In this case, the good is God. Senseless evil cannot be used against senseless good by the very fact that both are senseless.
  6. Should we say, however, that good and evil are not senseless but entirely apprehendable, we stil must contend with the fact that the good exists. If it does exist objectively, then we must see that it exists outside of subjective humanity. In what sense does the good exist? Does it exist like a number or a philosophical point? In what senses do these things exist? These are difficult questions, but I don’t think we need to answer them to see why now the problem of evil fails. If the good indeed exists objectively, then it exists objectively regardless of evil’s existence.
  7. In short, we can say: Objective evil implies objective good. Objective good is outside of human subjectvity, and so cannot be contained or limited by evil, for this is what it means to exist. Just as evil implies good, it is good from which evil is understood, so the objective good is seen to be higher. Based on the reality of any evil, the reality of any good cannot be disproved; in fact, belief in its existence should only be made stronger.

Finally, I will conclude this chapter by saying that by objective good, I think it has been shown that I mean God. As I see it, there is no difference whatsoever between these terms. Whatever the objective good is, that is God. We may not understand goodness, and so we may not understand God, but these terms are identical. Whatever goodness is in its purest form, that is God. Of course this does not clarify what God looks like, but that is not the issue here. We do not need to know anything further than that God is the good. Now, this claim runs the risk of sounding circular: behind my assumption of moral reality is my belief in God’s existence. But that is not the direction the argument takes. I assert first that morality is somehow “real,” and once having shown that, I think that it must be seen that this reality must have its origin with the same origin of all other realities. On this grounds you will often hear me say something like, where you have perceived a moral truth, you have been given a glimpse of God.

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